Mourning the Press Release

I attended Chinwag's PR Unspun this week in London and enjoyed listening to the speakers - most of all Neville Hobson. He talked eloquently about the changing landscape of PR and was vehement in the defense of the Press Release when I asked when we could consign it to the bin. Neville countered that it was a tool of the trade that had a lot of life left in it for many. To be fair I agree with him and should have asked

"how long until companies and agencies start using better language in a press release?"

The reason I asked is on the way to the event I was traveling on the Tune and whiled away the time with a copy of IT Week. I've not read it for a while and frankly it was shocking. Talk about overuse of the words "revolutionary" and "innovative" not to mention "aligned" and "exciting". The PR folks can help change this I hope.

I really enjoy reading Jack Schofield in The Guardian but when I read his commentary on our recently announced Silverlight product this week it depressed me. It's not Jack's fault that his article contained sentences like this

"WPF is the new way of developing user interfaces in Windows Vista, and is supported in XP via the Net 3.0 Framework. WPF/E provides a way of deploying powerful Vista-style programs across a network via Internet Explorer, Firefox and Apple Safari browsers. These RIAs can be deployed on Linux servers, says Microsoft"

What? I mean I know what that means but that's my job. Does anyone outside of IT really understand that?

Neville is right - the work on Press Releases is far from done.


Comments (3)

  1. Sam Michel says:

    Steve, you’re so right about press releases. It’s ingrained in the marketing culture though, and is going to take a while to break the habit.

    Not so long ago I was working on a release about CNET’s media sponsorship deal with Chinwag and just effortlessly slipped into using superlatives. Fortunately, Deirdre was on hand to sort things out and turn the language back in the direction of what passes for plain English at Chinwag.

    It was much harder work making the release read well, and explain what was happening without all the guff. Perhaps the reliance on superlatives, acronyms and over-blown language is a crutch the PR industry has relied upon for too long?

  2. I agree with your take on this, Steve, ie, how the press release is written is more the issue and not whether the press release itself should be consigned to the trash can.

    This topic has been a lively and often heated discussion among many in the blogger PR community for at least the past year. Some call for the ‘death of the press release’ and using blogs instead while others point to the emerging social media press release as its salvation.

    The social media press release is definitely an evolutionary step. Yet the delivery mechanism for news and information matters little if the news/information itself is so poorly expressed that the end result is waffle, spin and hype.

    Info about the social media press release:

    A couple of my favourite words to add to your list of cringe-inducing words so common in too many press releases: ‘harness’ and ‘reveal.’

    I notice ‘evolutionary’ beginning to creep in to usage so I need to be careful with that one!

  3. stevecla01 says:

    Hi Neville

    thanks for the link – I’ll go check it out and keep an eye out for "evolutionary" 😉

    I just spent the morning at Mix07 (MS conference in Vegas) and it struck me that there was so much stuff announced that I actually need the press releases to assimilate it all. Let’s hope they’re not full of hyperbole!


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